Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Russia, If you would.

Russia, once the largest and most powerful member of the former USSR, nonetheless remains a fascinating country to visit. It is a country of contrasts, from great subtropical beaches to bitterly cold winter regions in the north. The east may have fewer people, but its lovely cities are among the most popular places to visit in Russia and can hold their own against the west. Russia is steeped in history everywhere a traveler goes, from vicious battles to great classical music and literature. And almost everywhere visitors can see examples of magnificent art, not only in museums but also in its churches. 10: YEKATERINBURG Yekaterinburg is an industrial city in the Ural Mountains that has many things going for it. It is, however, largely remembered as the place where Tsar Nicholas, the last tsar of Russia, and his family were executed in 1918 during the Russian Revolution. Today’s Yekaterinburg has a vibrant cultural scene, home to many libraries, theaters and playwrights, and dance companies as well as popular Russian rock bands. Russia’s fourth largest city also has more than 30 museums, including the oldest wood sculpture in the world at the Shigir Collection; another museum houses more than 300 Nevyansk icons. 9: SOCHI Sochi on the Black Sea is a great winter sports destination and, in fact, hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Skis aside, Sochi also hosts the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix and will be a host city for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Despite winter snow, Sochi offers a subtropical climate and great beaches, making it a key part of the Russian Riviera. The resort city makes a great summer (and winter) getaway for Russians. Strolling along the pedestrian-only sea embankment is a pleasant experience. Environmentally conscious travelers may want to visit the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. Sochi also is home to the area’s northernmost tea plantations. 8: VELIKY NOVGOROD Founded in the 10th century, Veliky Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia’s far north. Veliky Novgorod claims to be the birthplace of Russia since its early residents invited the Scandinavian Prince Rurik to rule Russia, creating a ruling dynasty that lasted 750 years. Top sights include the Saint Sophia Cathedral and Bell Tower, the oldest in Russia; the Hanseatic Fountain is said to return 1,000 rubles for everyone thrown into it; and a host of museums, including ones on iron, porcelain, and history. Located on Lake Ilmen, Veliky Novgorod is a good place to eat borscht and buy bio-honey. 7: VLADIVOSTOK Mountains and bays surround Vladivostok, making it a stunningly beautiful city in Russia’s east. The last stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Vladivostok is the country’s largest port on the Pacific Ocean; it is just a hop, skip,s and a jump away from North Korea and China. The city offers many cultural attractions from theaters to museums to concerts; actor Yul Brynner was born here in 1920. Travelers may want to stroll through some of the city’s lovely parks, including Minny Gorodok, which was once a military base. The city’s main square is Admiralsky Skver, with a museum devoted to a submarine nearby. 6: NIZHNY NOVGOROD Russia’s fifth largest city sits at the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers. The town began as a fortress in the 13th century; at one time it was known as Gorky, after Maxim Gorky who was born here.  The old town is walled in, though the Archangel Cathedral was about the only thing standing after the city was devastated by Bolsheviks. Nizhny Novgorod is a good place to immerse oneself in Russian art and architecture, with more than 600 monuments and statues, and at least 200 art museums, concert halls, and the like. 5: IRKUTSK The de facto capital of Eastern Siberia, Irkutsk is by far the most popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and the east. With Lake Baikal only 45 km away, the city is the best base to explore the lake’s western shoreline. Travelers who visit historic Irkutsk may be pleasantly surprised by what they find. Decorated wooden houses stand beside standard Soviet block apartments, plus wide boulevards with not too much traffic for a city of more than 500,000 souls. Irkutsk was the site of many bloody clashes between Russian factions in various revolutions. It also served as a place of exile for intellectuals, artists, and others, which may be why the city has five universities. Several churches, including Ascension Church, and geology and history museums call Irkutsk home. 4: KAZAN Kazan is sometimes referred to as the Istanbul of the Volga because it is a city where European and Asian cultures meet. The capital of Tatarstan is a lovely city where church towers and minarets fill the skyline. Also known as the third capital of Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, Kazan residents enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Russia. Sights to see include the remains of the Kazan Kremlin that was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible; the Kul-Sharif Mosque, named after a man killed defending Kazan from Ivan; and Bauman Street, a pedestrian shopping street. 3: GOLDEN RING The Golden Ring strings together several cities outside of Moscow that fill the senses with awe. Picturesque countrysides filled with cherry orchards, quaint cottages, onion-shaped domes, and iconic churches that contain the country’s oldest art make this region a special place to visit. One of the oldest regions in Russia, today it is very popular with Russian tourists who want to experience a bygone era. The traditional way to view the cities and towns makes a counterclockwise loop beginning and ending in Moscow: Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Velikiy, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, and Sergiev Posad. White stone churches, monasteries, and fortresses are only some of the sights to see. 2: SAINT PETERSBURG Russia’s second-largest city may be known as Leningrad, but most people refer to it by its birth name, St. Petersburg. Founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, St. Petersburg was once the imperial capital of Russia; its name

10 best places to visit in Ukraine before WAR

Many argue that Ukraine is under-visited and less touristy than other parts of Europe, but Ukraine is one of Europe’s largest countries. This is a vibrant and beautiful country perched on the black sea, full of beaches, ancient castles, wild forests, stunning countryside, and a friendly attitude from its friendly people. Ukraine has a number of beautiful tourist attractions, including traditional villages and vibrant modern cities, many of which have UNESCO world heritage sites and well-preserved historical artifacts.  The gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv, with 11th-century mosaics and paintings, is a highlight. Furthermore, large festivals celebrating its rich culture and history of folk traditions and diverse cultural influences are held on an annual basis. It is also a very affordable travel destination. Despite its political problems, all of this makes Ukraine a unique destination. There are so many places in this country that will make you fall in love with this Eastern European gem. 10. UMAN This city in central Ukraine on the banks of the Umanka River offers a relaxing stopover between the popular cities of Odesa and Kyiv.  Uman was first mentioned as a fortification against Tatar raids in 1626, when it was under Polish rule, and has since gone through many stages of occupation. It is best known for the tragic Haydamak rebellions of the 1700s, but it is now a popular Hasidic Jewish pilgrimage site. The tourist attractions in Uman are well-marked, and you’ll have no trouble finding your way around this laid-back town. Visit Rabbi Nachman, Sofiyivka Park, the town obelisk, the Pearl of Love fountain show, or the daily market. For history buffs, the Basilian monastery (1764) is the city’s oldest structure. If you enjoy green spaces, Uman is a great place to visit. It is a major gardening research center, and Sofiyivka Park is ideal for a leisurely afternoon stroll.  Nature lovers can sign up for a tree tour at the Dendrological Research Center. Uman also has some colorful architecture, a museum, World War 2 memorials, and a beautiful pastel-colored church.  9. RAKHIV While its self-proclaimed title as the geographical center of Europe may not be accurate; Rakhiv is unquestionably Ukraine’s highest city.  This mountain town, nestled in the lush Carpathian forests of western Ukraine, is the ideal playground for nature lovers and hikers.  This location is ideal for adventurers looking to explore the southern Carpathians, as it offers stunning scenery such as picturesque slopes and  Swinging footbridges leading across the rushing Tysa River. There isn’t a whole lot going on here, but that’s the appeal of Rakhiv. Head to the peaceful Dilove village for a quiet escape in the mountains, and swap the hive of the city for the serenity of the outdoors. For a taste of the local culture, don’t miss the Hutsul Brynza festival held in September. This fiesta honors the shepherd who returns from the Carpathian each winter with cheese, Wurda, Brynza, Folk song, and dance.  8. CHERNIHIV Chernihiv is a city in Ukraine’s northwestern region. Churches such as the 11th-century Transfiguration Cathedral can be found in Dytynets Park’s historic center.  This location is one of Ukraine’s oldest cities. It was first mentioned in the Rus-Byzantine treaty between Prince Oleg and Byzantium in 1907, but the exact date of establishment is unknown.  Chernihiv was designated as the second most important Ukrainian center after Kyiv in this treaty. Chernihiv is the administrative center of The Chernihiv Oblast province in northern Ukraine and is located on the banks of the Dean River. It has beautiful medieval architecture, particularly Catherine’s church with its golden cupolas and the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral from the 12th century. If you like beer, you’ll love this place because it’s home to Chernihiv, a popular Ukrainian beverage. Don’t miss out on visiting the two ancient cave monasteries on the city’s outskirts or strolling around the 18th-century Kachanivka palace with its beautiful neoclassical architecture, lovely gardens, and lake.  7. BUKOVEL Bukovel, Ukraine’s main skiing destination is an idyllic wintertime destination. In fact, it is the largest ski resort in Europe, surrounded by three mountains, including the highest peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, and the views from this luxury alpine ski resort are simply breathtaking. Bukovel, located high on the slopes of western Ukraine, promises a ton of fun for all ages. With over 50 kilometers of Groomed pistes and playgrounds, caters to all skill levels. When you’re not testing the powder, visit the snow park, Bicycle Park, or ski school to learn some new tricks. December to April is the best time to plan a skiing vacation to Bukovel, but January has the most snow.  6. CHERNIVTSI This city is located in western Ukraine, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. Little Vienna, as it was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, has similar architecture to the Austrian city. But the city is more than just a pretty face; it also has significant historical and cultural significance. This city, according to archaeological discoveries, dates back to the Neolithic era. During the reign of the principality of Halych, a fortified city stood on the northeastern shoreline. It was dubbed the “Black City.” Because of the dark color of the city walls, it was most likely destroyed during the Mongol invasion. Some parts of the fortress are still standing today. Its cobblestone streets are lined with laid-back cafes, Baroque buildings, bookshops, and parks, making it the ideal place to unwind and soak up the no-frills, no-fuss atmosphere.  Don’t miss a visit to the National University, which is one of Ukraine’s largest universities. 5. KAMIANETS – PODILSKYI  Kamianets-Podilskyi is a Ukrainian city located in western Ukraine.  It’s famous for its well-preserved Old Town and the medieval fortress Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle, which has several original towers. Castle Bridge, which leads to the city center, was built in the Middle Ages as well. The open-air Miniature Museum displays replicas of Ukrainian castles. The Podilskyi Tovtry National Park is a vast nature preserve that includes historical monuments. It is, in fact, one of the primary reasons tourists visit this fairy-tale city. The fortress, which towers over The Smotryc River, is truly magnificent. It is without a doubt one of the most picturesque fortresses in Eastern Europe.  But the city is more than just the fortress. Explore the cobbled streets of the well-preserved medieval Old Town, which is lined with pretty pastel-colored houses, and admire the excellent street art that tells the city’s story. Take to the skies on a one-of-a-kind hot air balloon ride, see one of the city’s highlights waterfall-watching along The Smotrich sky Canyon, and try your hand at archery on the Castle Bridge. Don’t miss the incredibly hot air balloon festival in the spring!  4. CHERNOBYL For those interested in history, Chernobyl promises a dark exploration. It’s the site of the